100 Years of Advancing Destinations

Pushing Your Destination’s Notion of Content

Author: Guest John Hudak and Robert “Mac” McCracken
Posted: April 23, 2014
Blog Topics Covered:
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Extending the Brand Publication Boundaries

In recent posts, we noted the enduring value of established, owned media (e.g. Official Visitor Guides, destination websites, and social media platforms, etc.) as the foundation for destinations’ content publishing.  In particular, John’s review of national research demonstrates the continuing strength of engagement for visitor guides and their ongoing role for driving high value visitors’ decisions to deepen and extend travel to your destination.

We also noted a rising sense of frustration among tourism leaders with the notion of “Content Strategies” bound primarily to owned media.  In response, we offered a broader strategy of Audience Development to extend the value of content into more of a true destination marketing focus with strategic earned and paid distribution.  Audiences in earned and paid media demand more of your content.  Long ago DMO’s mastered the art of creating presentations of your places, attractions, and activities that are informative and comprehensive.

What we ask today is that you try to start observing the emotional experiences offered in your content.  Experiences and emotions are not nouns (e.g. places, attractions and activities).  Experiences reveal the “why” (i.e. the feelings) of the encounter with the destination– not the “what” (i.e. the nouns).

Why should I hike your awesome trail?  What emotions will I feel?  What memories will I create?  What inspiration will I take home?  How will your place change me?  Visitors want and demand an experience.

Content Acid Test:  Reread your last content story.  Circle the destination nouns (e.g. places, attractions, activities).  Box the feelings, emotions, memories, inspiration and change.

Just try it!  Just maybe you will find a new notion of content. In today’s post, we want to push the notion of content further by connecting the complementary ideas of “Experience Design” and “Micro Content” with the goal of pushing your content into true inspiration.

Experience Design

If your brand is truly bound up in traveler’s memories and stories of your destination, then why don’t destinations focus more on Experience Design?

More and more leading tourism voices are emerging to point the way.  Will Seccombe, CEO of Visit Florida, focused industry attention on experiential issues at the recent Service Design and Tourism Conference.  Consulting experiences at Travel2dot0 guide Troy Thompson’s vision for destination marketers as integrators of the entire travel experience across the destination.

These notions of designing global destination experiences are truly cutting edge – and expansive. 

Now, past the expansive, excuse us if we get a bit more narrow for the moment.

Micro-Location Experience

Let’s consider the concrete example of designing a traveler experience at one of your destination’s hotels or attractions.  We invite you to push your own metaphor of destination publishing with the advent of a new technology – the iBeacon.  Imagine a new wireless, mobile technology that is:

Seeking:    Finds your visitors continuously throughout your venue rather than users actively searching for QR codes or NFC “points of interest” around your property.


Sensing: Knows the focus of a visitor’s attention and proximity to objects with iBeacon sensors discriminating between visitor distances of up to 2 feet, near vicinity of between 2 and 10 feet and further distances out to about 100 feet.  Such location sensing precision is simply not available with current mobile GPS or WiFi capabilities.


Smart: Based on a precise location, an iBeacon can offer a mobile application context specific content providing a visitor specific actions at specific times or conditions so your visitors are truly smart about anything you want them to know or experience in your location.


Simple: Easy to set-up and cheap as opposed to the complexities of installing and maintaining a secure WiFi network.

Sure: Connections are fast and reliable instead of the too often finicky processes of QR code scanning or blue tooth pairing.

With every update to the iPhone operating system, Apple has offered enhanced location capabilities.  But the available capabilities of GPS and WiFi location sensing simply did not provide high enough resolution for single locations.  The latest Bluetooth technology (i.e. Bluetooth Low Energy) has provided these new capabilities and is supported in both iOS and Android devices.

Micro-Location Publication

So let’s consider an attraction common in destinations across the country:  Major League Baseball parks.  With opening day this spring, MLB unveiled iBeacon installations at more than 20 stadiums. 

While we don’t know all the innovations coming from MLB, just imagine as you approach the stadium, your MLB application alerts and guides you to the best entrance based on your electronic ticket or your season ticket profile.  Just before the gates, you are alerted to the availability of last minute, upgraded seat offerings.  Just past the gates, a pre-game interview pops up with your son’s favorite player and you are directed to the media venue.

During the game you might monitor food court traffic to time your quickest snack run and choose the least demanded rest room.  As the home team routes the visitors in the late innings, you might decide between heading for an early exit based on traffic or proceeding to a post-game concert venue.

For any destination, content can be offered at the right time and in the right context to spike your visitor’s most valued experiences. Micro-Location experiences such as the history and interpretation of an art piece as your visitor walks through your town square; show times and ticketing information as they approach a local theater; a bio of the chef as they stroll past a local bistro.

Consider the effects on your brand equity if you could deliver the highest emotional value at your customer’s most critical moments. Truly emotional connections with consumers transcend time and place. Micro experiences allow DMO’s to connect with visitors in an exact place and time that creates a new relevance and value. Destination marketing today requires emotional and practical engagement.

“Mac” has worked with destination marketing organizations over more than 20 years including his role as Deputy Director at the Arizona Office of Tourism.  Mac’s work with the tourism industry includes leadership positions with Arizona Tourism Internet Partners, Arizona Tourism Alliance and the Arizona Travel and tourism Research Association. Mac earned a master's in business administration and a law degree from Cornell University

John joined Madden Media in 1987 as the first editor of Tucson Guide when there were just eight employees. He has contributed significantly to Madden Media's impressive growth to more than100 employees today. A recognized travel publishing authority nationwide, John is a frequent tourism conference speaker and the winner of dozens of awards for his contributions to the industry.